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Council explores Center 4 Life building options

By Staff | May 25, 2017

The City Council narrowed five options down to two during a special workshop that addressed the next steps for the Center 4 Life building last week.

To help give City Council a full picture of the activities that take place at the Center 4 Life, Recreation Director Andrea Miller provided an overview of its popularity.

Islands Senior Inc. membership has had a steady increase from 2004 to 2017. Other areas of participation increases include land based aerobic classes, yoga and chair yoga, card game participation, kayaking, presentations and classes, food and social activities, as well as trips and theater outings.

The land based aerobic classes in February alone had more than 1,200 participants.

Henry Woodroffe, of Woodroffe Corporation Architects, provided a presentation at the beginning of the workshop. The strengths and weaknesses were among the first discussed, a result of many interviews.

Some of the strengths included a balanced approach for social, health and mental enrichment, a welcoming attitude, central location and a program based structure. Some of the challenges touched upon outdated, inadequate facility, space efficiency, parking, inadequate outdoor activity areas and storage.

Woodroffe said with everyone living a longer, and more active lifestyle, with the target population of 65 years of age and above, increasing, one of the things he heard the most was an improved flexibility for space.

The current Center 4 Life is comprised of 3,245 square feet. There is an additional 1,835 square feet, 735 square feet of which is used for Community Housing & Resources, and the remaining for shared common space.

Woodroffe said after interviewing everyone, he saw the need that Center 4 Life really needs about 7,500 square feet. The building currently sits on 1.3 acres. To fulfill the projected space needs, the center would need about 2.5 acres.

As a result of the interview with Island Seniors, Inc. board members, City Council and City of Sanibel staff, Woodroffe provided council with five alternatives to consider.

Out of the five alternatives, the council rejected the first three, retain status quo, renovate in place with CHR and renovate in place with CHR relocating.

The first option, all five council members were unanimous in stating that the option should not even be considered.

“What I’ve done is I put a plus, or minus next to each one of the bullet points and added up the score. This one came out almost to the last,” Council member Chauncey Goss said.

The second option, Mayor Kevin Ruane said would keep CHR in place while doing what they could to improve the space Center 4 Life currently has. He said when they get into the needs of the space – a better roof, improved duct work – they are not changing the walls of the building and increasing space.

Ruane said in his opinion the second option does not accomplish anything.

“Although I don’t agree, or support option two, you have to realize that we cannot fulfill the needs of everything we are asking for. We will never be able to fulfill the total parking requirement,” Council member Mick Denham said.

Goss agreed that the second option did not solve any of the problems they are experiencing.

The third option, Ruane said poses a financial challenge in relocating CHR. He said if they move CHR they are obligated to pay their rent, utilities, etc.

At 2,000 square feet, Ruane said a new space could easily be $5,000 a month, which is $60,000 a year.

“What’s the objective? We are trying to get more square footage, so we achieve 735 square feet,” he said of the current CHR space at the Center 4 Life building.

Ruane said the only difference between the second and third option is they have expanded the city’s budget with finding CHR a new location and extending their contract. In addition, they only increase four parking spots by moving CHR.

The fourth alternative, to rebuild on the current site.

Woodroffe said in remembering the site is 1.3 acres, there would be a number of code exceptions. If the City Council chose this route, he said rebuilding on the site would disrupt the current use of Center 4 Life, as well as CHR.

“It could maybe meet space depending on how aggressive the city would want to be on expanding on the site,” Woodroffe said.

The fourth option received positive feedback from the council, resulting in leaving “rebuild on current site” an alternative to consider.

Ruane said they could potentially build a 5,000 square foot building at a cost of $400 per square foot, resulting in a $2 million price tag.

“So you level the building and put a brand new building up and basically we stay within our code,” he said, adding that they do not address any additional parking, or outdoor activity space.

The second option in alternative four is to disregard codes, build a 7,500 to 10,000 square foot facility on the site. Ruane said pursuing that option would mean asking for a exemption from the code. He said they would address the building needs, but not address parking issues.

“I like it better, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem. The site is not big enough,” Goss said.

Council member Jim Jennings said the option also disrupts the programs. He said they have programs that are working, and people are enjoying them.

“I say four is not an option at all,” he said because they would be taking the building offline for quite a few months disrupting the flow of programs.

Council member Jason Maughan said there is no question that they need to build a new building. He said he supports an exemption for rebuilding on the current site.

Maughan went on to state that he would like to look further into the parking issue and see what they could accomplish. He said he would like to look into shared use agreements with neighboring properties for parking.

“Option four with a tweak, regarding parking, I’m happy,” Maughan said.

Ruane said the further they push the parking away from the building, the larger liability the city will have.

Center 4 Life currently has. It is proposed that they need at least 45 spaces.

Denham said he would like to keep the fourth option on the table because it would keep the Center 4 Life in its current location, which he feels is an ideal spot.

“I think option four is a reasonable alternative to solving the problem that we face with the Senior Center,” Denham said.

The last alternative is building a new facility on a different site. This option would accomplish a seamless transition to the new facility from the old facility without disruption to programming, meeting space requirements, providing adequate parking and outdoor activity area, follows the City of Sanibel code compliance, provides an opportunity to meet current and future programing, offers a sustainable and energy efficient facility and allows existing site for other city use.

The fifth alternative requires a minimum of 2.5 acres.

Ruane said the fifth option might not be as expensive when taking into consideration the size of the building and parking. He said the cost may be around $6 million to complete.

“I went to bed liking option five. I woke up still liking option five,” Goss said. “I think it solves all of the problems. I think it would be the least expensive and most efficient.”

Ruane said if they were looking into a perfect world, option four, or five, would probably take two years to complete. He said the city will actually drop off some of its debt in 2022, which could potentially be replaced with the Center 4 Life building.

Denham said it will still be a tax payer liability.

“The beauty of what we are going to do is rely on the citizens to make the vote,” Ruane said.

Ruane gave the city manager direction in compiling information for the council that would continue their discussion at their next workshop, tentatively set for August.

For option four, council is looking for information regarding the new building being built at 5,000, 7,500 and 10,000 square feet at the current site and understanding the true cost, as well as understanding how they can address parking.

Maughan said another issue to address how to keep the programs running, and where to hold them.

The fifth option, Ruane said needs to consist of information regarding the costs of the project, as well as what property would be available to purchase.